Fes was one of the highlights of my 2001 trip to Morocco, for so many reasons. After visits to Casablanca and Rabat, we got on an eastbound train. On the way to Fes was Meknes, a city of a million people that I’d never heard of before. I soon discovered it was a place not to be missed. Lovely, even with ominous clouds rolling in:
Unfortunately, we weren’t there long, because we wanted to visit a couple of places outside the city. After chatting with the friendly and helpful owner of our hotel, we were able to arrange a car hire (with a driver) to squire us to and fro. Not very expensive, and so worth the relatively small expense. We went to Volubilis, the archeological ruins of a first century Roman city (and Unesco World Heritage site). Fascinating. To imagine the people her two thousand years ago in a far-off corner of the Roman Empire. The biggest surprise was the storks nesting atop the columns of the ruins.
After Meknes, we took the train to Fes, and after staying in very modest (read: “extreme budget-conscious”) digs for a week, we were in the mood for a little more indulgence. We tried to get a room at the top hotel listed in our Rough Guide, but it was full. They referred us to a tiny little guest house/hotel called Arabesque, further in the medina — and I’ll forever be grateful to them for it.
It was a stunningly beautiful traditional home where, in the main floor courtyard, they served Morocco cuisine every evening. We had lovely breakfasts on the rooftop patio. They helped us find a traditional hammam. They also connected us with a wonderful guide who took us all over the maze that is the Fes medina. We explored the architecture, visited the tannery and the king’s residence, and had tea with carpet sellers, fabric makers, and silver smiths. I learned some history, a little more about culture and ate some fabulous food – from tagine, couscous and pastilla to delicious marinated olives.
The most amazing thing about Fes was the old medina. Another Unesco World Heritage site, it’s a vibrant, lively and beautiful place. We’d wander down narrow and nameless streets that would surprisingly open into wide courtyards, busy marketplaces. So many nooks and crannies to explore. I’m glad we had someone to take us around, or I likely wouldn’t have made it back to the hotel every night.